CLEVELAND, Ohio – A Walmart store in Canton, Ohio is hosting a holiday food drive for a group of people who cannot afford enough food on their own.
That group? The store’s own employees.
Food bins were set out in an employees-only area of the store, along with a sign reading “Please Donate Food Items Here, so Associates in Need Can Enjoy Thanksgiving Dinner,” the Cleveland Plain Dealer newspaper reported.
Walmart representatives say the drive is a goodwill gesture meant to support workers who may have fallen on hard times. But labor groups and at least some low-level Walmart employees claim it proves the retailer knows it isn’t paying employees enough to survive in today’s society.
“It is for associates who have had some hardships come up,” company spokesman Kory Lundberg told the newspaper. “Maybe their spouse lost a job. This is part of the company’s culture to rally around associates and take care of them when they face extreme hardships,” he said.
“Why would a company do that?” said Vanessa Ferreira, who works with OUR Walmart, a group that wants Walmart employees to unionize. “The company needs to stand up and give them their 40 hours and a living wage, so they don’t have to worry about whether they can afford Thanksgiving.”
A longtime store employee, who asked that her name not be used out of fear of being fired, told the paper workers found the drive “demoralizing” and “kind of depressing.”
Lundberg said holding the food drive at the Canton Walmart was decided at the store level. However, the effort could be considered in line with what happens company-wide, according to the Plain Dealer. The Associates in Critical Need Trust is funded by Walmart employee contributions that can be given through payroll deduction.
Nationally, non-management Walmart store employees make about $9 per hour, according to Glassdoor.com.